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(Upland, CA, June 10, 2021)
After last Saturday night’s race at the Ventura Raceway, it is safe to say that the drivers in the California Lightning Sprint Car Series are anxiously scanning the USAC/CRA Sprint Car. They are checking to see the next time A.J. Bender will miss a CLS race after he dominated the main event for the second straight time. Not only was it the second win in a row for the San Diego based driver, but it was the second straight race that he led every inch of the way. The last time another CLS driver led during a main event was nearly two months ago!

A.J. Bender won his second CLS main event in a row last Saturday at the Ventura Raceway. CLS Photo.

Before a packed house for the re-opening of Jim Naylor’s beach side racetrack, Bender fired the first shot of the night when he out-qualified the 18-car field with a time of 12.260. Palmdale’s Eric Greco was the second quickest in qualifying with a lap of 12.333 and Jeff Dyer of Yucca Valley stopped the clocks third fastest at 12.350. The first five in CLS qualifying were all quicker than the fastest USAC Western Midget Series qualifier on the night.

The only chink in Bender’s armor came in the first eight-lap heat race when he finished fourth. Five time series champion and Ventura specialist Bobby Michnowicz of Oak Hills captured the checkered flag in that heat. Ventura’s Bruce Douglass took the win in the second heat with Rudy Padilla of Norco laying claim to the victory in the third eight-lapper.

For the 25-lap main event, Bender was starting on the pole with Greco alongside. Series point leader James Turnbull of Indio and Dyer made up row two. The third row had Lakewood’s Aiden Lange on the inside with Michnowicz starting next to him. They were lucky they were starting in the first three rows as the moment the green flag dropped, a massive crash involving eight of the 12 cars starting behind them took place. The “Talladega” style tangle necessitated a red flag, and the race was halted before it ever got to turn one. By the time the carnage was cleaned up, Padilla, “Rockstar” Jon Robertson of Torrance, Corona teenager Trevor Ballou, and Wyatt Boczanowski of San Diego were all done for the night.

Fortunately, once the race restarted the only flags needed were the green, the white and the checkered. At the outset, Bender took the lead over Greco, Dyer, Michnowicz and Turnbull. As was the case in Bakersfield at the previous race, Bender, driving the immaculate Abacus/BillMell.com/Van’s Logging/Elite Racing/Watkins Construction Incorporated/Mike Schweitzer owned #41, quickly put some distance between himself and the second-place car. The only real action amongst the top five in the early going was the duel for fourth between Turnbull and series leading rookie David Gasper of Santa Barbara. Gasper relieved Turnbull of the spot on the third lap with Turnbull returning the favor three laps later.

By the 10 circuit, Bender had increased his lead to nearly a half straightaway. It looked as though he was going to have an easy night. However, Greco had other plans. As the leader approached soon to be lappers, Greco began to reel him in. At one point Greco pulled alongside Bender as they raced off turn two. It looked as though the teenager was going to take over the lead, but that advance was thwarted when a lapped car got in the way. That allowed Bender to again put some breathing room between himself and Greco.

Greco still had a chance to challenge Bender due to the heavy lapped traffic. However, his hopes of challenging for the lead disappeared when he slowed coming off turn two and pulled to the infield with five laps to go. That seemed to put Bender in full command in the race’s waning laps. Very heavy lapped traffic altered those thoughts as on the last two laps Dyer weaved his way through the back markers and came calling. He pulled to Bender’s rear bumper on lap 24. Bender got a little bit of breathing room at the start of the last lap , but any fleeting hopes Dyer had of winning disappeared when a lapped car got up in front of him in turn three on the final go around. When the checkered signaled the end of the fifth CLS main event of the year, Bender had his second victory in a row. Dyer, Turnbull, Michnowicz and Lange finished second through fifth. Gardena’s Dominic Del Monte finished seventh and was the race “Hard Charger” after moving up nine spots from 16th on the start

“They let me start at the front, so I had to make the most of it,” Bender joked after becoming the first driver to win two CLS main events in 2021. “This thing is always fast. We fixed a little problem we had with it the last time and we won that race. I have to thank the guy who owns the car, Mike Schweitzer, and his brother Wink who wrenches on it. I start out front and they give me this car. It is hard not to win.”

The CLS is off this weekend but returns to action on June 19th at Peter Murphy’s Keller Auto Speedway in Hanford. Turnbull, a 19-year-old college student, has a 58-point lead over Michnowicz heading into that race. Impressive rookie Gasper is third. Greco’s misfortune saw him slip to fourth in the standings with Dyer sitting in fifth.

The CLS would like to thank 2021 series sponsors Hoosier Tires, T Shirts By Timeless, TJ Forged Racing Wheels, and Walker Performance Filtration. If you or your company would like to become part of the series, please call Alex Grigoreas at (909) 437-3170.

To keep up with the CLS online, please visit the website at http://racecls.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/californialightningsprints/

June 5 Ventura Raceway Main Event Results (with starting positions)
1. A.J. Bender – San Diego, CA – 1st
2. Jeff Dyer – Yucca Valley, CA – 4th
3. James Turnbull – Yucca Valley, CA – 3rd
4. Bobby Michnowicz – Oak Hills, CA – 6th
5. Aiden Lange – Lakewood, CA – 5th
6. David Gasper – Santa Barbara, CA – 9th
7. Dominic Del Monte – Gardena, CA – 16th
8. Robb Pelmear – Ventura, CA – 13th
9. Mark Henry – Rosamond, CA – 14th
10. Bruce Douglass – Ventura, CA – 7th
11. James Heling – San Bernardino, CA – 15th
12. Pat Kelley – Chino, CA – 17th
13. Dale Gamer – Anaheim, CA – 18th
14. Eric Greco – Palmdale, CA – 2nd
15. Trevor Ballou – Corona, CA – 11th
16. Rudy Padilla – Norco, CA – 8th
17. Wyatt Boczanowski – San Diego, CA – 10th
18. Jon Robertson – Torrance, CA – 12th

2021 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Point Standings
1. James Turnbull – Indio, CA – 603
2. Bobby Michnowicz – Oak Hills, CA – 545
3. Dave Gasper – Santa Barbara – 409– 516
4. Eric Greco - Palmdale – 508
5. Jeff Dyer – Yucca Valley, CA – 478
6. A.J. Bender – San Diego, CA – 396
7. Dominic Del Monte – Gardena, CA – 381
8. Trevor Ballou - Corona, CA – 373
9. Jeremy Queener - Chino, CA – 298
10. Aiden Lange - Lakewood, CA - 296

CLS/BCRA Civil War Series Point Standings
1. James Turnbull – CLS – 135
2. Bobby Michnowicz – CLS – 133
3. Dakota Albright – BCRA – 121
4. Dave Gasper – CLS – 119
5. Aiden Lange – CLS – 112
6. Seth Hespe – WASH – 107
7. Jeff Dyer – CLS – 98
8. Chase Gaal – CLS – 88
9. Eric Greco – CLS – 85
10. Brandon Leedy – BCRA 83

2021 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Schedule

March 13 Bakersfield Speedway – Eric Greco

April 10 Bakersfield Speedway – Bobby Michnowicz

April 24 Merced Speedway (Wayne Albright Memorial - Round #1 of the Civil War Series with BCRA – Wingless) – James Turnbull

May 15 Bakersfield Speedway – A.J. Bender

June 5 Ventura Raceway – A.J. Bender

June 19 Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford)

July 3 Santa Maria Speedway

July 24 Santa Maria Speedway (Wing Madness #1)

August 7 Merced Speedway (Civil War Series #2 with BCRA – Winged)

August 14 Bakersfield Speedway

August 28 Santa Maria Speedway

September 4 Ventura Raceway

September 18 Bakersfield Speedway (Civil War #3 with BCRA – Winged)

September 19 The Dirt Track At Kern County Raceway Park

September 25 Santa Maria Speedway (Wing Madness #2)

October 2 Ventura Raceway

October 30 Mojave Valley Raceway

November 16 Bakersfield Speedway (Civil War #4 with BCRA – Winged and Western States Lightning Sprint Car Championship)

November 18 Placerville Speedway Hangtown 100 – (Co sanctioned with BCRA and in companion with the USAC National Midgets)

November 19 Placerville Speedway Hangtown 100 – (Co sanctioned with BCRA and in companion with the USAC National Midgets)

November 20 Placerville Speedway Hangtown 100 – (Co sanctioned with BCRA and in companion with the USAC National Midgets)

The schedule is subject to change due to Covid restrictions.

1994 Tony Everhart, 1995 Gary Sexton, 1996 Rob Sczymczak, 1997 Jon Rahe, 1998 Chris Rahe, 1999 Brent Sexton, 2000 Greg Bragg, 2001 Greg Bragg, 2002 Greg Bragg, 2003 David Cardey, 2004 Keith Janca, 2005 Johnny Bates, 2006 Donny Gansen, 2007 Shane Rossen, 2008 Brent Sexton, 2009 Stuart Hielschier Sr., 2010 Jarrett Kramer, 2011 Tim Brown, 2012 Bobby Michnowicz, 2013 Stephen Limon, 2014 Bobby Michnowicz, 2015 Bobby Michnowicz, 2016 Bobby Michnowicz, 2017 Bobby Michnowicz, 2018 Jarrett Kramer, 2019 Jarrett Kramer.

This press release was produced by Scott Daloisio Sports (909) 226-7768 mailto:sdaloisiosports@aol.com